Mohammad Nabeel Sarwar Image Credit: Supplied


Community journalism is quite the buzz these days across newsrooms. Recently, Washington Post and The New York Times announced a multi-million dollar project with Firefox that will create a platform to promote reader interactivity.

We’ve come a long way from when editors decided what the reader should consume, in a specified form and how much. Today the consumer has turned participant and in many cases has crossed over to becoming editor, especially when it comes to formats such as Wikipedia.

Reader interactivity is the future that the publishing industry hinges on. If you cannot give what the reader wants, unless you are offering captive content, redundancy appears pretty quickly on the horizon.

At Gulf News, we’ve been ahead of the curve and realised nearly a decade ago, that unless we make our readers participants we are going to alienate ourselves from the very people we serve. Readers Desk is key to that drive to stay relevant.

Reader interactivity has about 11 layers to it and community reports is what we would call the sixth layer of evolution, when the reader becomes more of a standalone content provider with required mentoring by professional journalists. With over 2,500 community reports published in 7 years, we believe that this form of participatory journalism has definitely found a solid footing. However, do tell us if your opinion differs.

Meanwhile, moving on to winners for the previous month, first place goes to the June 4 report by Mohammad Nabeel Sarwar, ‘Needlessly putting lives in danger’. It is a shocking piece because it shows a housekeeper on an unprotected ledge cleaning the window from outside. The lack of safety is so apparent that it calls for criminal action against her employers. It is appalling that we care so little for the safety of the lives of thsoe in our employ. However, we could also argue that perhaps the family she works with is unaware that she cleans the window in this manner. Nevertheless, Sarwar has raised an extremely important issue.

Second place goes to the June 25 report by Aswathi Ajith, ‘Act of careless smoking can cause major damage to life and property’. It was, again, an excellent piece of photojournalism that showed the driver of a truck transporting flammable cooking gas, smoking in the vehicle. The hazardous nature of his ignorance is a cause for concern that not only includes his life but also of those around him. Such a massive consignment of flammable gas would mean extensive damage if that cigarette had led to a fire. More needs to be done to create better awareness about these issues. Perhaps the authorities could have certain stipulations when it comes to transport drivers.

Third place goes to the June 30 report by pupil Aparna Mani, ‘The terrible tragedy of throwing away good food’, about the wastage in food courts including outlets that fail to sell everything.

This is an important issue in a world wherein almost a billion people are going hungry while we waste one third of the food produced, according to international research reports. Mani needs special commendation for having highlighted the hyperlocal aspect of a global problem. Everything does start with us!



First: Mohammad Nabeel Sarwar

Date published: June 4

Mohammad Nabeel Sarwar, a Pakistani national based in Dubai, has been referred to as a keen observer by his friends.

He said: “This could very well be the reason why just a glance towards the maid cleaning the window made me overcome with emotions. I am a very sensitive person and love seeking knowledge of all kinds. This is what pushed me to shed light on the issue, and I thank Gulf News for providing a portal, for acknowledging other people in the best possible manner and providing factual and credible information.”

Sarwar believes in working towards a better future for the community.

He said: “My friends and family were glad that I took this extra step to shed light on this grave issue and for talking about human rights, something that is jeopardised greatly. One of my colleagues informed my team at work of the article, which has greatly helped change perspective about myself at work and in my friend circle. I think being a community reporter is the least one can do to put forth our perspective that could change other people’s mindset one day.”


Second: Aswathi Ajith

Date published: June 25

Aswathi Ajith, an Indian national based in Sharjah, is a grade eight pupil at The Millennium School, Dubai. The community reporter raised an important issue of the driver of a truck transporting flammable cooking gas, smoking in the vehicle. The student was shocked to see this sight and urged the authorities to punish such careless drivers for not following the safety regulations and putting other people’s lives at risk.


Third: Aparna Mani

Date published: June 30

Aparna Mani, an Indian national based in Dubai, is a pupil of the The Indian High School, Dubai. The community reporter wrote about the wastage of food in malls. This is something a lot of us may talk about, but never take an initiative. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation has estimated that nearly 870 million people, or one in eight, suffered from chronic undernourishment in the years 2010-2012. Mani has attempted to raise awareness about a global issue and hoped to get people to stop wasting food.


— Profiles compiled by Rabab Khan/Community Interactivity Editor